From where does Earth get Oxygen? The answer may shock you

It has been an intriguing question for centuries that from where earth’s atmosphere gets oxygen and how to control oxygenation. And if the recent study is to believe the oxygen levels are related to the rotation of the earth.

Earth has formed 4.5 billion years ago, and since then, it has been rotating. But recent research finds that eventually, the rotational speed of our planet is decreasing progressively. The slowing down of the earth gives microbes time to stay in sunlight and release oxygen into the atmosphere.

How is the spin cycle of Earth altered?

We very well know that one complete rotation is equivalent to one full day. Therefore, presently the earth has a rotational period of 24 hours, but that was not the case 4 billion years ago. According to researchers, back then, the day only lasted for 6 hours.

The spin is slowing down because of the attractions from the moon. The gravitational pull from the moon leads to a rotational deceleration of the planet. This process is called tidal friction. During the rotation, the moon attracts the earth’s oceans.

Brian Arbic, a professor in the Earth and Environmental Sciences department at the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science and the Arts, says that the moon is siphoning earth’s energy and thereby slowing it down. Earth’s deceleration is slow, and with every century passing, it is gaining 1.8 milliseconds, and days will keep lengthening with the geological time.

How are Cyanobacteria influencing Oxygen levels?

Cyanobacteria are the second most vital component that influences- The Great Oxygenation. They emerged in large quantities bringing a significant rise in the oxygen levels. Cyanobacteria are firmly related to the oxygen levels that without them human life would have had no significance.

They turned earth from an oxygen-deficient planet to an oxygen-rich planet. Today, cyanobacteria are looked at with side-eye, but the reality remains that without them we wouldn’t have been here.

Conclusions from Lake Huron Sinkhole

Lake Huron Sinkhole
Lake Huron’s Middle Island Sinkhole, Credit: Phil Hartmeyer, NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Certain conclusions regarding how the oxygen is related to the earth’s spin are discovered by the scientists from the sinkhole at the bottom of Lake Huron. 

Lake Huron, bordered by Michigan in the United States and by Ontario in Canada, is the largest source of fresh water in the world with 300 feet (91 meters) diameter and 80 feet (24 meters) depth. The microbes found in the lake were thought to be the analogs of the cyanobacteria responsible for the oxygen emission.

The sinkhole consists of two types of microbes –

  • Purple Cyanobacteria is the sunlight-seeking cyanobacteria and produces oxygen through photosynthesis.
  • White Cyanobacteria consumes sulfur and releases sulfate.

The purple and white cyanobacteria keep adjusting their position during the day, as in the morning and the evening hours the white cyanobacteria overshadow the purple blocking the sun rays. However, during the daytime, when sunlight is directly over the head, the white cyanobacteria shun deep into the sinkhole leaving the purple cyanobacteria in direct contact with the sun rays preparing more oxygen to send into the atmosphere.

A research scientist in the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Germany, Judith Klatt, said, “ Shorter days yield less oxygen to skip the mat, even if the likewise quantity of oxygen is liberated per hour.”

Proper modeling was done between the day length and the oxygen escape from the mat by the researchers. Samples from the Middle Island Sinkhole and relating the scenarios it was confirmed that more photosynthesis occurs when days are long, delivering more oxygen.

Further, the planet is experiencing longer days and more increased oxygen.



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